Eka Pada Koundinyasana II
Arm Balance, Hip Opener, Neutral Spine
Abdominals, Arms, Hamstrings, Hips, Shoulders
Setup and Key Actions
Come into a lunge with your right foot forward, and bring both of your hands to the inside of your front foot. Lift your back thigh (especially your back inner thigh) up toward the sky and sink your front thigh down and forward. Stretch your legs apart from each other like you're stretching your mat in two as you reach your chest (not your chin!) forward, leading with the sternum like you would in warrior III, so that the weight of the upper body begins to balance out the weight of the hips.
Then start to work your right shoulder under your leg. Some people find it helpful to walk the right foot in a little, more toward the center of the mat, before they do this. Experiment and see what works best for you. To work your shoulder under: Lift your right heel up off of the floor (like you're wearing a shoe with a high heel); bring your right hand to the back of your calf, and lift the flesh of your calf up. Then move your right thigh out toward the right to make space to work your shoulder under. Continue to work these actions: calf up, thigh back, shoulder under, until you get to the point where your shoulder is as “under” as it's going to get. Once you've worked your arm under your leg, lower your right heel back down, and plant your hands on the floor (on either side of your front leg; think chaturanga arms here). Broaden through your collarbones and lift the fronts of your shoulders up away from the floor. Start to walk your right foot forward at a diagonal, toward the upper right corner of your mat. Then, lift your right heel up off of the floor, and see if you can inch your right foot forward (at that same diagonal) a little more. Then, see if you can spread your toes and lift your entire foot up off of the floor! Keep your elbows bent, your collarbones broad, and your gaze slightly forward.
With your right foot lifted and your right leg extended, start to shift your weight a little more forward to come high up onto your left toes (keep your collarbones broad and maintain chaturanga arms), and, using your toes like a lever or a seesaw, shift your shoulders and chest forward, and see if you can lift your back foot off of the floor too. You'll have to “negotiate” your weight as you shift forward and back a bit, perhaps eventually finding the “sweet spot” where both feet can hover away from the floor. Until then, hopping up and down on your back foot is totally fine! Keep the fronts of your shoulders lifted, level, and not dipping below your elbows. Spread your toes and stretch out through both legs with your gaze slightly forward.
For extra support, place a yoga block at its highest height underneath your back thigh as you come into the pose.